The Puerto Rico House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a religious freedom bill that critics contend would allow discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
El Nuevo Día, a Puerto Rican newspaper, reported Rep. María Milagros Charbonier of the New Progressive Party, a pro-statehood party that Gov. Ricardo Rosselló chairs, said the bill “is not a discriminatory law.”
“It protects against discrimination,” said Charbonier.
Rosselló in April announced the introduction of the religious freedom bill.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who is running for governor, in a tweet described the measure’s passage as “shameful.” U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also criticized the bill.
“Religious freedom cannot be used as an excuse to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community,” tweeted Warren. “Everyone deserves to live and love freely — no exceptions.”
The religious freedom bill’s passage coincides with the release of a new report from Lambda Legal and the Movement Advancement Project that indicates Puerto Rico has made the most progress on LGBT rights than four other U.S. territories surveyed. Activists in Puerto Rico with whom the Washington Blade has spoken maintain LGBT Puerto Ricans are even more vulnerable to discrimination and violence since Hurricane Maria devastated the island on Sept. 20, 2017.